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New Zealand Bishops on Royal Commission inquiry into abuse

The Catholic Church in New Zealand publishes details of a sub-inquiry made into abuse committed in Church institutions in New Zealand, specifically the Marylands School in Christchurch.

By Francesca Merlo

In a statement released on Friday, the Church in New Zealand welcomed “publication of details of the case study inquiry into the former Marylands School in Christchurch announced by the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care”. The statement notes that “Marylands is one of a number of individual inquiries the Royal Commission will hold into state and faith-based institutions as part of its overall investigation into historical child abuse in care institutions”.

The investigation

On their website, the Royal Commission of Inquiry explains that their investigation is focused on “the nature and extent of abuse that occurred at the hands of priests, religious or lay employees of the Church” as well as “whether there are any systemic, structural or other factors which contributed to the abuse occurring and the adequacy of the response by the Catholic Church to allegations of abuse”.

Marylands was a residential school for boys, including many with learning disabilities, run by the Catholic religious order the Hospitaller Brothers of St John of God, from the 1950s to 1984.

The Commission has yet to name a date for the Marylands hearing.

Te Rōpū Tautoko

The Bishops of New Zealand, along with other Catholic leaders, have sought to have the Church included in the work of the Royal Commission, which when first established was limited to abuse of children in state care.

In Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand), this is also being done through Te Rōpū Tautoko, a group that was designed to “co-ordinate and manage cooperation between the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-based Institutions and the Catholic Church in Aotearoa, represented by the Catholic Bishops and Congregational Leaders of Aotearoa New Zealand”.

In a statement released on Thursday, Cardinal John Dew, Vice-President of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference and a Tautoko member, welcomed the publication of the documents. He stated, “we reaffirm our support for the work of the Royal Commission and our desire to learn from its work, which we are confident will contribute positively to the safeguarding of all people, and strengthening of families, communities and the wider society."

Catherine Fyfe, chair of Te Rōpū Tautoko announced: “we will work with the Royal Commission and the leadership of the brothers of St John of God to ensure that our response is as timely and comprehensive as possible, to honour those harmed at Marylands." She added that this inquiry and the wider work of the Royal Commission are a way for the Catholic bishops and religious congregations to "positively engage in this important process of listening, acknowledging, learning, and reaffirming our commitment to safeguarding the vulnerable in society.”

Brother Timothy Graham OH, is the Sydney-based Provincial of the St John of God order. He said the Marylands inquiry was an acknowledgement of those who were harmed in the care of the brothers. “The inquiry is another chance for the survivors’ voices to be heard, and for the brothers – indeed all of us -- to listen and learn.”

Te Rōpū Tautoko is independent from the Royal Commission. It coordinates the response of the Catholic Church to the Royal Commission in New Zealand. Since it is not a support group for survivors, it invites survivors seeking support to contact the Royal Commission directly. 

21 August 2020, 16:15